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Hung: The Complete Second Season(TV) (2010)
Desperate times call for desperate measures and Ray Drecker's situation couldn't be much tougher. The former high school sports legend turned middle-aged high school basketball coach is divorced and struggling to provide for his kids when his already run-down house catches fire. Looking to take on a second job, Ray decides to exploit his best asset in a last-ditch attempt to change his fortunes.
For more about Hung: The Complete Second Season and the Hung: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray release, see Hung: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on September 28, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Thomas Jane, Jane Adams (II), Anne Heche, Rebecca Creskoff, Gregg Henry, Eddie Jemison
Director: Jim McKay
» See full cast & crew
Hung: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review
The innuendo is dead. Long live the innuendo...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, September 28, 2011
Television show titles don't get much more literal than Hung. Weeds, I suppose, but Hung takes the proverbial cake. And it isn't just because of teacher-turned-gigolo Ray Drecker's considerable assets. Or asset, as it were, although that's a big part of it (pardon the pun). Ray's well-hung, but he's also hung up on his ex-wife, his career is hanging in the balance, his secret is hanging by a thread, he's on the verge of being hung out to dry by his pimp (pimps actually, plural), and his kids have all but hung the poor man in effigy. Fun with idioms aside, Hung isn't a subtle series by any means, nor does it rely on the age old art of innuendo. It subscribes to the art of innuendo nouveau; a bit of gratuitous reverse-perverse that adheres to the notion that more is more, that the most direct route must be the funniest and the most dramatic, and that the most penetrating comedy is... sorry, I'll spare you the bad joke. But Hung's first season wasn't exactly funny or dramatic. It was just, well, odd and uneven, not to mention uncharacteristically flaccid for an HBO series. Season Two is better -- much better in some regards, truth be told -- but it's still awfully hit or miss and never quite pulls off everything executive producer Alexander Payne and showrunners Dmitry Lipkin and Colette Burson are trying to accomplish.
Poor Ray (Thomas Jane). He may be well-endowed, but his life isn't getting any better for it. While cocksure pimp Lenore (Rebecca Creskoff) and insecure wallflower Tanya (Jane Adams) begin vying to earn Ray's exclusive loyalties with ever-escalating ferocity, the moonlighting high school history teacher just wants to make a decent (albeit temporary) living and walk away before prostitution leaves any permanent marks. He's also more interested in making his female clients happy than in keeping the money coming, a "problem" with which Lenore takes particular issue. But Ray is more than a slab of meat for hire. (Or so he insists.) He's anxious to win back his ex-wife Jessica (Anne Heche), boot her husband Ronnie (Eddie Jemison) to the curb, help his best friend and assistant coach Mike (Gregg Henry) without arousing the man's suspicions, and forge a connection with his socially struggling teen twins, Damon (Charlie Saxton) and Darby (Sianoa Smit-McPhee), all while trying to strike some sort of amicable compromise with Lenore and Tanya. Nothing comes easy, though. Tanya finds a mentor in hustling street pimp Charlie (Lennie James), Lenore digs her claws in deeper and deeper, Jessica isn't sure what she wants, Ronnie fights back (well, insofar as Ronnie can put up a fight), Mike starts to ask too many questions, and Damon and Darby... eh. Do teenagers ever make anything easier?
Add to that the looming threat of school district layoffs this season and Ray has his work cut out for him. Fortunately, no matter how uneven or unwieldy each episode may be, Jane holds his own. Yes, Heche is infuriating (although it's smarter to point to the writers), Jemison could be funny (with the right material), Henry is benched in nowhere-fast subplots, and Saxton and Smit-McPhee are as obnoxious and out-of-place as ever (I still can't get past the ugly ducklings gag, much less their all angst all the time performances). But Jane lends some weight to the comedy and some heart to the drama, not to mention some thrust to the series' extracurricular activities. He's thoughtful and measured in his decisions, deliberate and careful in his performance, and even affecting when called upon. Creskoff and Adams aren't far behind either. Creskoff deals in fire and ice, perpetually pushing Ray and, subsequently, the series into waters rife with conflict. Adams bobbles beautifully from one extreme to the next, counters Creskoff's sure-handed assuredness with volatile insecurity, and manages to draw the spotlight away from Jane as Tanya and Charlie begin spending more time together. James is, hands down, the best addition to Season Two; if Lipkin and Bursonto slapped a "happily ever after" on Ray and Jessica's story and just tailed Tanya and Charlie -- maybe even focusing on an increasingly heated rivalry with a more powerful, more successful Lenore -- I think I'd be one happy TV junkie. Not that I'm in any hurry to be rid of Ray.
My gripe with Hung? It's all over the place. For every interesting storyline that establishes a strong series momentum, there are at least three that have trouble keeping up. Ray's family is as eccentric as HBO eccentrics come and it's hard to root for him to make it work with Jessica or rekindle his relationship with Damon or Darby when the three of them are as irritating as they are. (Damon's poetry bar readings are the absolute low point of the season. Maybe even the series.) It doesn't matter whether you blame the scripts, the writers or the actors. The once-and-future Dreckers muck up the works. It also never seems if Ray is any real danger. Walter White is always under the gun. Nancy Botwin is always dodging the authorities (among others). But Ray? Ray worries that he might be recognized by a client... in public! Gasp. Or that Mike will uncover the truth, or that Jessica might turn her back on him... again. Despite all its manufactured conflicts, Hung remains a conflicted series groping its way through the dark. Season Two's finale doesn't feel like a finale at all, but only because everything that precedes it doesn't pave the way for anything moving or meaningful. Oh, there are fantastic threads and tangents along the way, but they don't go anywhere, they don't surge toward anything, they don't tower or topple. They just sort of hang there, lively yet somehow listless, begging for resolution or further exploration. Hung was built on a gimmick (which, if series like Dexter, Weeds, Breaking Bad and Bored to Death prove anything, is all fine and good). But Lipkin and Burson haven't managed to push past that gimmick. He's a male prostitute trying to win back his family! (Cue laughs.) Um... he's a male prostitute... trying to win back his family! (Cue nervous laughter.) Hung needs to move in a bigger, bolder direction. Here's hoping Season Three satisfies come this October.
Hung: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Barring some uneven noise, The Complete Second Season's 1080p/AVC-encoded video presentation looks every bit as good as its First Season counterpart. Yes, Ray's nighttime excursions, Jessica and Ronnie's dusk-to-dawn anxieties, and some of Tanya and Charlie's midnight mentoring sessions don't exactly pop, but HBO's efforts rarely, if ever, come into question. Uta Briesewitz's series photography drifts between dismal downtown Detroit and sunny Motor City suburbia without a hitch, imbuing each episode with fairly natural, lifelike colors, warm hotel interiors and, for the most part, nicely saturated skintones. (Pinkish hues press in from time to time -- look no further than the library scenes in "Beaverland" -- but it isn't very distracting, if at all.) Contrast is pleasing as well, even if trickier shots lead to some inherent inconsistencies. Moreover, detail impresses throughout. Fine textures are well-resolved, edge definition is crisp and clean (with very little ringing to report), and delineation is... well, about as revealing as can be expected. Closeups are particularly easy on the eyes; Ray's five-o-clock shadow, the lines on Tanya's weary face, Mike's wild (ever-retreating) hairline, Charlie's grizzled forehead, the tiny freckles on Jessica's arms (not to mention her developing rashes), Damon's heavy mop, Darby's eyebrows... all unimpeded by any serious artifacting, banding, aliasing or smearing. A few anomalies appear but, again, most of them trace back to the source. As far as I'm concerned, Hung's video presentation doesn't disappoint.
Hung: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
HBO's excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track excels too. Dialogue is perfectly intelligible and believably grounded in the mix, the soundscape effortlessly wraps itself around the listener, and effects are aggressive and limber. The LFE channel doesn't necessarily get a workout -- Hung is, after all, a dialogue-driven dramedy -- but low-end output is confident and capable nonetheless. The same could be said of the rear speakers. With an immersive soundfield and ample ambience, the sonic experience is engaging from start to finish, even if the rear speakers favor realistically restrained (yet convincing) directional effects over dramatic cross-channel pans and whiz-bang movement. The streets and suburbs of Detroit often come complete with a bustling city noise floor as well; one that subtly and surely enhances the various environments and lends Hung a welcome sense of authenticity. All in all, HBO's lossless mix is as potent as its video presentation. Fans of the series, casual and diehard alike, won't have much to complain about.
Hung: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The 2-disc Blu-ray edition of Hung: The Complete Second Season doesn't offer much in the way of extras aside from five take-em-or-leave-em audio commentaries. Don't get me wrong, the set's deleted scenes (HD, 16 minutes) and HBO "Inside the Series" featurette (HD, 13 minutes) are welcome, but the only value to be had lies in the production anecdotes and reflections of the series' showrunners and writers. The tracks are dull but decent, so long as Burston (who tends to be a bit overbearing) doesn't get under your skin. Commentaries include "Just the Tip" with creators/executive producers Colette Burson and Dmitry Lipkin; "Sing it Again, Ray or Home Plate" with Burson, Lipkin and writer Brett C. Leonard; "The Middle East is Complicated" with Burson, Lipkin, Leonard and co-writer Kyle Peck; "Third Base or That Rash" with Burson, Lipkin and writer Julia Brownell; and "Fat Off My Love or I'm the Allergen" with Burson, Lipkin and writer Angela Robinson.
Hung: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Hung's second season is an improvement, but not by much. Burston and Lipkin are so attached to the series' premise that they haven't really taken it anywhere. Some additions work -- an increased focus on Lenore and Tanya, Charlie's mentoring sessions, and Ray's nightlife -- but annoying supporting characters, crippling story issues and wobbly writing make for an uneven season. Luckily, HBO's 2-disc Blu-ray release isn't as underwhelming. With a solid video presentation, a strong DTS-HD Master Audio track and a five-commentary supplemental package, The Complete Second Season makes all the right moves.
Hung: Other Seasons
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Hung: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Hung: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray (Updated) - June 2, 2011
The second season of the critically acclaimed TV series "Hung" will arrive on Blu-ray this September. From creators Colette Burson and Dmitry Lipkin, "Hung" focuses on the misadventures of Ray Drecker (Thomas Jane, Boogie Nights), a high school basketball coach ...
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